Where's my tax refund?

Show Me the Money!

Think of all the things you can buy with your tax refund!
Think of all the things you can buy with your tax refund!
Liudmila Sundikova/Hemera/Thinstock

Back in the day, you could wait weeks or months before getting your refund check, and it wasn't that easy to find out about it. You had to wait on the phone for a long time before you got an answer from a customer service rep. Fortunately, it's quite easy to check on your refund status now.

First, wait at least 24 hours after filing electronically, or four weeks after filing a paper return, and then log on to the IRS's Where's My Refund? site. The tool allows you to easily track your refund's progress through three simple stages (return received, refund approved, refund sent). A refund date will also be listed once the return has been completely processed. The site updates once every 24 hours. The IRS also offers the handy, free mobile app IRS2Go, which contains the same information. In addition, feel free to visit IRS.gov. All of these options are available 'round the clock.

If you made a mistake on your initial filing and had to submit an amended return, it'll probably be closer to 12 weeks before the refund is processed. Check the status of these returns via the appropriately named Where's My Amended Return? tool, but keep in mind that it can take as many as three weeks to even show up in the system.

If the IRS made an error when depositing your refund, they will handle correcting and redistributing the money. To get the ball rolling, simply pick up the telephone and call 800-829-1040 Monday through Friday. The agency will also take steps to replace any checks that have been lost or stolen, and explain any differences in refund. For example, if your refund is more or less than you were expecting, the IRS will send you a notice detailing the difference, along with instructions on how to proceed [source: IRS].

U.S. taxpayers living outside the country can call the international taxpayer service call center with any issues on outstanding or incorrect refunds. IRS agents are also on staff at the U.S. embassies in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Beijing.

Author's Note: Where's my tax refund?

Getting a tax refund is like playing roulette and winning big! If we're so lucky this year I plan to spring for a pony. Just kidding – it will likely be something far more sensible, like a new dishwasher.

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  • IRS. "IRS Refund Information Guidelines for the Tax Preparation Community." 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p2043en.pdf
  • IRS. "Question: How can I ensure my refund is deposited as I designate?" 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.gov/Help-&-Resources/Tools-&-FAQs/FAQs-for-Individuals/Frequently-Asked-Tax-Questions-&-Answers/IRS-Procedures/Refund-Inquiries/Refund-Inquiries-19
  • IRS. "Topic 152: Refund Information." 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc152.html
  • IRS. "Topic 203: Refund Offsets ..." 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc203.html
  • IRS. "What if I entered the correct ..." 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.gov/Help-&-Resources/Tools-&-FAQs/FAQs-for-Individuals/Frequently-Asked-Tax-Questions-&-Answers/IRS-Procedures/Refund-Inquiries/Refund-Inquiries-20
  • IRS. "Question: What is a split refund?" 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.gov/Help-&-Resources/Tools-&-FAQs/FAQs-for-Individuals/Frequently-Asked-Tax-Questions-&-Answers/IRS-Procedures/Refund-Inquiries/Refund-Inquiries-3
  • IRS. "Where's My Amended Return?" 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.gov/Filing/Individuals/Amended-Returns-(Form-1040-X)/Wheres-My-Amended-Return-1
  • Rosen, Elizabeth. "When Will I Get My State Tax Refund?" U.S. Tax Center. Feb. 21, 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.irs.com/articles/state-tax-refund-arrival-date
  • USA.gov. "Check Your Federal Tax Refund Status." Oct. 15, 2014. (Oct. 29, 2014) http://answers.usa.gov/system/templates/selfservice/USAGov/#!portal/1012/article/3510/Check-Federal-Tax-Refund-Status